The U.S. has officially completed a 1-for-1 prisoner swap to bring Brittney Griner home in exchange for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
“Today my family is whole,” Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s wife, said.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with Cherelle Thursday morning to make the announcement after 294 days of Brittney’s wrongful detainment.
“I’m glad to say that Brittney is in good spirits,” President Biden said. “She’s relieved to finally be headed home. The fact remains that she lost months of her life, experienced a needless trauma, and she deserves space, privacy, and time with her loved ones to recover and heal.”
“I’m just standing here overwhelmed with emotions but the most important emotion that I have right now is just sincere gratitude for President Biden and his entire administration,” Cherelle said.
Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner.
She is safe.
She is on a plane.
She is on her way home. pic.twitter.com/FmHgfzrcDT
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 8, 2022
According to multiple reports (including ESPN’s TJ Quinn), President Biden and his administration pushed to bring back Griner along with former Marine Paul Whelan in the prisoner swap, but Russia made it clear that it was a 1-for-1 or nothing.
“As you all are aware, there are so many other families who are not whole,” Cherelle said. “BG and I will remain committed to the work of getting every American home, including Paul, whose family is in our hearts today. As we celebrate bringing BG home, we do understand that there is still people out here who are enduring what I endured the last nine months of missing, tremendously, their loved one.”
NEW from the Whelan family: "There is no greater success than for a wrongful detainee to be freed & for them to go home. The Biden Admin made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home, & to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn't going to..”
— Nick Kalman (@NickKalmanFN) December 8, 2022
Griner, 31, was arrested on February 17th at Sheremetyevo International Airport outside of Moscow for what prosecutors allege was two cartridges containing 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hashish, or cannabis, oil.
Even though Griner’s lawyers appealed her nine-year sentence, she was still sent to a Russian penal colony, where prisoners work 16-hour days among other conditions.
The Biden Administration has said it will continue to work at bringing Whelan, as well as all other wrongful American detainees, home.
Griner is being flown to Abu Dhabi, where she will board a flight to America.